updated 10/14/2007 12:18:08 PM ET 2007-10-14T16:18:08

A rapidly spreading patch of flowering American lotus is causing an ugly battle.

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Across Gibraltar Bay on Hickory Island, Sue Liphardt said she doesn’t like the sight of the plants. She and others fear the patch will grow to interfere with fishing and boating, driving down property values.

“It’s like an island moving closer to our dock,” she said. “I don’t want them to wait until it’s 50 feet away to decide how to control it.”

But to Bruce Jones, a founder and board member of the Grosse Ile Nature Conservancy, the plants are lovely — and a sign the water near Grosse Ile is cleaner.

The American lotus is threatened in Michigan, and there is a fine as high as $500 for picking it, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The fight between the nature conservancy and Hickory Island homeowners has escalated in the past year.

Jones said the lotus bed was spotted in 1999, when it consisted of a few plants. But some homeowners say it’s now nearly 10 acres and claim they saw people in boats planting seeds to expand it in 2002.

Only natural beds are protected by law. Jones said the nature conservancy planted lotus seeds in other parts of the bay in 2002, but those seeds didn’t take root.

The bed “is not our fault,” he said. “It’s nature.”

Grosse Ile is on the Detroit River southwest of Detroit.

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